Music Review—Brighter Light

Artist: Benjamin Russel & Rob Stuart
Album: Brighter Light

For fans of nostalgic synth-pop, there might be something interesting on the horizon.  On December 6, the dynamic duo and creative powerhouse of Benjamin Russell and Rob Stuart will be releasing their second collaborative piece.  This comes hot on the heels of their debut album, Something in F Minor, which was released just earlier this year.

Benjamin, a singer, songwriter, and graphic artist originally from Saskatoon, now residing in Montreal, has spent most of his life exploring and expressing himself through various musical styles.  Meanwhile, Rob, who immigrated to Toronto from London at the age of 15, has forged a musical career producing for talented artists in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

Finding a common language in electronic music, they joined forces to create this intriguing project, continuing their “musical conversation” with the upcoming EP, Brighter Light.  Their new EP will feature four songs, offering a departure from their debut album.

Brighter Light is primarily a dark, downtempo, and chill compilation of songs.  After an early listen, the standout for me is, hands down, the title track, which is also the first song on the album.  Drawing inspiration from the likes of Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, and David Bowie, the song exudes elements reminiscent of these influences.  Additionally, I was able to discern hints of Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre.  Furthermore, it brought up memories of my darkwave phase and artists like Clan of Xymox and The Frozen Autumn.  The lyrics also carry that darkwave feel.

Interestingly enough, though I was expecting similar sound from the rest of the songs as well (especially with names such as Don’t Leave me Behind, Driving Hollow, and Elegant Mirage), that was not at all the direction the album was about to take.  The following song, Don’t Leave me Behind, had a much lighter sound, incorporating acoustic guitar and a less specific stylistic arrangement.  Driving Hollow, the third title on the EP, is very similar and yet different, blending some slap bass with futuristic synths and samplers.

The last song, Elegant Mirage, is probably my second favourite one, and the fact that I really like two out of four songs is a pretty good indicator for me that there is something to these guys.  Musically, it’s a blend of all songs, creating an ambiance filled with dread.  Lyrically, it tackles themes of reality versus illusion, and there is this cacophonic quality to it that makes it feel almost transcendental.  There is also something cinematic about it; I’m thinking, if Dune and Moulin Rouge had a baby, this would be it.

Overall, this project is one of the most creative I’ve come across lately, though at times it does come off a bit pretentious.  While not an everyday listening experience, I can really appreciate its experimental approach.  If you’re seeking light, catchy tunes, this may not be your cup of tea.  However, if you appreciate a bit of artistic weirdness and enjoy the mentioned artists, you might want to preorder the album and give these guys a go.